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Vince Chase remains top dog on 'Entourage'

Eric builds his business, Turtle has a starlet on his arm and Drama is up for a new role. But the alpha male in the group remains unchanged.

July 12, 2009|Jon Caramanica

As with many fights between intimates, the ones between Vince (Adrian Grenier) and Eric (Kevin Connolly) on "Entourage" are little more than tests of will, games of chicken in which projecting one's own inadequacies is as potent a weapon as pointing out those of the other person.

Early in tonight's episode, the first of the show's sixth season, the two discuss Eric's plan to move into his own house. Vince, for his part, plays it cool. Eric fishes for attention: "C'mon, Vince, you know you don't like to be alone."

"Ha," comes the retort. "I don't like to be alone?"

"No."

"How would you know?" Vince parries. "You've never seen me alone. You're always with me 'cause you can't be alone."

"Have you ever lived by yourself?" Eric asks, pleased with himself.

Vince is having none of it. "Have you? And the guest house doesn't count."

Eric is silent.

"Exactly."

It is the conflict, the rupture from which this season's narrative tension must be wrung. It is also the only moment in this episode with heat beyond a low simmer. By now, the characters of "Entourage" (HBO, 10:30 p.m. Sundays) have become complacent, impervious even to their own growth. Eric, Vince's manager, may take on other clients and move out of the house; Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), Vince's driver, may date Jamie-Lynn Sigler; and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), Vince's washout older brother, may land himself a spot on a prime-time drama. But this show about four childhood friends from Queens navigating Hollywood will always be a show about an employer and his subordinates.

Without Vince on top, there's no order to preserve, and though "Entourage" plays at tweaking the star system, it's enthralled by it, just another groupie.

The end of last season saw Vince saved from certain obscurity by Martin Scorsese, who taps the fading star to star in his new film. That the new movie is about Jay Gatsby does not appear to have left any marks on the young star, a man-child still game to use his fame to bed whatever young thing crosses his path. After all, there aren't even books on Vince's shelves to be inspected for cracked spines.

Scorsese doesn't seem to be making a return appearance: Next week's episode features the film's premiere, with Vince strutting the red carpet like a made man. Was there ever any doubt? An "Entourage" without a successful and blithe Vincent Chase is no show whatsoever. Maybe it's the stuff of basic cable, or God forbid, network, but schlubs don't play well on HBO.

Which is why, no matter how high those around him climb, none will threaten Vince's primacy. (The show's other alpha male is Vince's agent Ari, played by Jeremy Piven, who still musters servility meshed with his bluster, an admirable act.)

In this regard, not enough attention has been paid to Eric's T-shirts, near-tight at the top but then dangling limply -- shabbily -- a couple of inches past his waist. Here is the Eric conundrum captured in less than a square foot of cotton: Even his most basic attempts at slickness give way to an underlying wobble. And then there's his accent, nasal and kicking, which on this show about the difficulties of assimilation, still grates. (Vince, naturally, has no accent.)

Belonging, though, is getting tougher and tougher for "Entourage" to pull off. This season will feature the usual raft of star cameos (Zac Efron, LeBron James, Lil Wayne, Aaron Sorkin), but the slipstream has left the show in the dust. Ari boasts of signing Greg Garcia, the creator of "My Name Is Earl" -- "now a member of the Miller-Gold family!" That show was canceled in May. (In fairness, Garcia is now writing a pilot for Fox.)

This is an inadvertent nod to the futilities of navigating Hollywood airspace. Bundle that with a financial climate that's changing industries daily -- Ari sprinkles a couple of recessionista references into his harangues ("Have you seen my stock portfolio, Lloyd?") -- and what emerges is a real life more vibrant and dynamic than the show created to celebrate and gently mock it.

In tonight's premiere, there are jokes about Leno and Conan (Jay's last late-night hurrah, it turns out, is needling Vince about being a poor driver). And on next week's episode, the boys debate Seth Rogen's funniness months after "Family Guy" got there and after Rogen effectively roasted himself on "Saturday Night Live."

Once was a time when "Entourage" had no peer in Hollywood meta-commentary. But the city is moving fast -- the show needs to keep up.

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calendar@latimes.com

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